We’ve written about what the future tractor-trailer might look like, The Tractor-Trailer of the Future, and whether the truck driver of tomorrow will even drive a truck, Will the Truck Driver of the Future Drive a Truck? However, there’s a lot more to consider about the future of trucking than trucks and drivers.
Will Trucks Drive Themselves?
There is no doubt that driverless vehicles are the future of transportation. The question is how soon and how much. The first step in trucking is most likely platooning. Platooning trucks is when two or more trucks are connected electronically and “driven” by the driver of the lead vehicle.
Volvo has been platooning trucks in Europe since 2009 and in June of 2018 they teamed with FedEx, “Volvo Trucks North America, together with FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, used advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technology to conduct on-highway truck platooning as part of ongoing research collaboration.” — Volvo and FedEx demonstrate truck platooning.
“I don’t think the time has come for self-driving class 8 trucks to be streaking down our highways and byways. That time may come, but for now, there’s no need when platooning can accomplish everything a driverless truck could do and more.” The Problem with Driverless Cars and Trucks.
Will They Drone on and on?
There may be other uses for driverless trucks that make more sense than OTR (Over the road). For example, last mile delivery. Last mile is what it sounds like. After a product has been shipped by freight, truck, or boat, the final delivery to the end user could be by driverless vehicle. Not only a driverless truck but drones could be employed to deliver packages.
Sound farfetched? “UPS announced it has successfully tested a drone that launches from the top of a delivery truck. The test was conducted in collaboration with drone-maker Workhorse. Sending drones to make deliveries from package cars could bolster efficiency in our network by reducing miles driven.” Here’s a video demonstration by UPS, UPS Tests Residential Delivery Drone. The future of trucking is already here if you look for it.
It could also be that trucks and drones will be controlled remotely by “drivers” in an office the way the military remotely controls drones.
Advances and Speculations
Other advances could include high speed rail. Underground city-to-city infrastructure, and computer automation from packaging to last mile.
Further down the road imagine a Jetsons-like world where ground transportation is a thing of the past.
Or consider this, it’s possible the future will need fewer trucks because consumers will use 3D printers to create products at their homes and businesses. The replicator from Star Trek could become a reality.
What Does the Future of Trucking Hold?
The truth is I don’t know what the future holds for the trucking industry. We can make educated guesses based on emerging technology and current trends, but those aren’t facts. Here’s what I know for a fact about the future of the trucking industry. It will change.